Pray First, Last, and Always

by Allan Panozza

During a recent spell in a hospital, at a time when I was suffering from severe weakness after undergoing open heart surgery, I had a discussion with a nurse who was on duty in my ward. She happened to notice that my Bible lay open on the table beside my bed, and she asked me about my belief in God. She told me that she possessed "healing powers", and she offered to massage my feet so that energy from her would be transferred to my body. It became increasingly obvious to me as our discussion continued that this lady was immersed in New Age philosophy. After identifying herself as being a former Catholic, she then went on to share with me her belief in reincarnation. This lady meant well, and was no doubt motivated by kindness as she sought to help me in my need. However, the source of her power came from within herself, and being like all human capability, is only finite and can have no lasting effect. Incidentally, she did not get to massage my feet!

Jesus was very specific about how important it was for the Apostles to remain in close relationship with Him if their ministry was to bear fruit. At the Last Supper he likened Himself to a vine and them to the branches of that vine. "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing." (Jn 15:5).

I had a simple example at my own home of what Jesus meant. One day I noticed that a climbing vine that grew in a garden plot beside the house had begun to entwine itself around a down-pipe. It had climbed to a height of about five meters and had almost reached the roof of the house, so I took some pruning shears and cut through the main trunk of the vine. A few days later I noticed that the lush green foliage was beginning to dry out, and within two weeks the vine above the cut had withered right away, and even though it still remained attached to the down-pipe, it was now lifeless.

This little example in my own garden prompted me to reflect on how vital it is for me to remain attached to Jesus. How can I make sure that I will always remain this way? The answer is simple! I must spend time with Him. Supposing a husband sees his wife only occasionally, spends no time alone with her, rarely speaks to her, but professes that he loves her. Would we not say that he is deluding himself? Should not marriage between two people be an intimate relationship which will grow and blossom in proportion to the time and attention they give to each other? Our relationship with Jesus should be based on the same principle. He is the source of power in our lives, and we cannot expect to draw on that power in ministering to others if we do not stay in deepening dependence on Him. As we grow in that relationship we will become increasingly aware of His constant presence, and we will be empowered to draw freely upon His divine resources rather than having to depend on our own limited capabilities.

During my years in the Renewal, I have been called upon many times to give talks or to minister in prayer groups or at conferences. On occasions I have found that although I have spent much time in preparing material for the talk, I have also been acutely aware that there was an absence of power in my actual presentation. On the other hand I have discovered that the more time I spend in prayer before the event, then the more evidence of God’s power is present. In fact I have even found myself standing before a group of people, but suddenly am prompted from within to speak in an entirely different way to that which I had intended. It has been especially at these times that I have been aware of an anointing of the Lord upon what I am doing. I now make sure that my most important preparation for any form of ministry is to spend time with Jesus beforehand. In exercising His own ministry Jesus gives us clear evidence through the Gospels that He spent much time in close relationship with His heavenly Father. I am sure that if He had selected the twelve apostles from a merely human process of discernment the choice might well have been different. Instead we are told that He went into the hills alone and spent the night in prayer before He chose the twelve (cf. Lk 6:12-16).

I know in my own life that despite all my best intentions it is still difficult to find daily time for prayer. My own preference is to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, which I am able to do because I live close to a small Mass Chapel within my parish. I have found from personal experience that the best time to set aside for being with the Lord is early in the morning, so this means rising a little earlier than usual to spend that time in prayer. Of course the most powerful form of prayer is to attend Mass frequently or daily if possible, and to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. Frequent reception of the Sacraments is a certain guarantee of coming into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

If I am to hear the Lord speak to me, it will only be if I am in a close relationship with Him. That relationship is made in prayer first, last, and always.

Allan Panozza is an ICCRS Council member representing Australia. 1997 International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, Vatican City. Used by permission.

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